Posted by Jennifer Slattery on July 30, 2010
I love hearing about other people’s marriages. Especially those that have gone from struggling to healing, from bitterness to forgiveness, and from distance to intimacy. Intimacy is the continual disclosure of self with diminishing fear. Intimacy is marriage as God intended it. Now, imagine two people, united by God, after ten, twenty, thirty, even fifty years of mutual self-disclosure and you will have a glimmer of marriage as God designed it to be.
Today Becky Melby is sharing her own marriage journey and how God sifted through her false expectations in order to draw her closer not only to her husband, but ultimately, to Him. Thank you, Becky, for sharing your story with us.
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About twenty-six years into my marriage, I had a shocking revelation: My husband is not God. The knowledge rocked my cranky little world. It meant 1.) He was not equipped to read my mind, 2.) He had an excuse for not being the perfect lover of my soul, and 3.) He didn’t possess the ability to love and accept me unconditionally.
Those of you who are silently mouthing “Well, duh…” are now excused. I only need to address the few who may have, on occasion, been guilty of expecting too much from a mere mortal spouse.
Before I get into the ramifications of that revelation, let me paint a picture of my life up to that point. I was fifteen when I met Bill. His gorgeous blue eyes made my knees weak. His whispers in my ear sent glorious goosebumps winging all the way to my toes. We dated for four years. During that time I broke up with him at least four times. Not because I didn’t love him. Not because I doubted his love for me. I broke up with him because something was missing.
Bill was kind, considerate, affectionate, and attentive, but there were times he didn’t seem to “get” me. There were times he actually seemed disappointed in me. He missed my Prince Charming mark…only by a fraction, but wasn’t he supposed to be The One who would fill up all my empty places and make me feel whole? Wasn’t he supposed to be the soul mate who would look into my eyes and know my every thought, who would love me perfectly no matter what mood I was in or how I responded to him? I dated a couple of guys during those break-up times, but none of them had “it” and they just made me miss Bill all the more. So we got back together, I vowed to be content, and we got married. Surely that indefinable sense of lack would disappear when we said, “I do.”
It didn’t. Seven years and two kids into our marriage I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Bill followed soon after. Now this is where I desperately wish I could say, “And I found in the Lord everything I’d been looking for and to this day we live in marital bliss.”
I can’t. Because even though I had given my life to Jesus, I hadn’t given up my expectations of Bill. In fact, they increased. Certainly a Christian husband would be able to read my soul. He would still bring me flowers even with bills piling up, two days worth of dishes littering the counter, and an inch of Cheerios crunching underfoot. He would still sweep me off my feet even though I hid my unbrushed hair in a bandana and moped around in oversized, wrinkly blue work shirts. Like spiritual Teflon, a Christian husband would let my sarcastic remarks slide right off his perfect back and he’d respond with words of affirmation.
He didn’t. He even had the audacity on several occasions to walk out of the room before I’d finished.
I don’t want to give the impression that we were miserable during the first two and a half decades. We weren’t. We raised four sons and became grandparents during that stretch of time. Our photo albums are filled with wonderful memories. But my journals are filled with discontent. Life was good, our marriage was good…but never quite good enough.
And then came the day twelve years ago when God impressed that startling fact upon me. It came as an almost verbal impression: Quit expecting your husband to be God.
It hit like a jolt of electricity. All the things I’d craved from my husband—mind reading, soul-searching, total acceptance, and perfect love—had never been in his job description. Those roles belong only to the true lover of my soul and lifter of my head.
And so I quit. Not all at once, not perfectly, but I gradually let go of those expectations. If Bill wasn’t equipped to read my mind then I had no right to get mad when he gave advice instead of a hug. I started making things easier on the poor guy. Today, if I need a hug I walk up to him and nestle into his chest…and his arms slide around me. Once I accepted that he was not the one designed to be the perfect lover of my soul, I took a dear friend’s advice and started “giving him a pass.” I’m trying to be sensitive to his moods and what kind of day he’s had. Today he might not respond the way I hope he will, but tomorrow I may be gloriously surprised.
When I finally understood that Bill didn’t possess the ability to love and accept me unconditionally, I made an effort to become easier to love. I take a few extra minutes in front of the mirror in the morning. (If I don’t like what I see, why should he?) I’m working at becoming more of a giver than a taker, and putting his needs above mine. I’m trying to be lavish with compliments, encouragement, and time, and stingy with criticism.
I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but this one revelation, which should have been obvious to me decades ago, has turned our marriage around. The pressure is off my husband because I now acknowledge there is only One Who knows my thoughts before they reach my tongue, Who “gets me” like no other, and Who loves me perfectly and unconditionally. I shouldn’t be surprised that Bill is much more willing to give when my hands aren’t stretched out demanding that he fill them. And when I took that expectation off of Bill, my eyes began to open to just how unbelievably amazing it is to be wholly loved by the Creator of the Universe. In His arms, there is nothing missing.
Becky Melby has been married to Bill, her high school sweetheart, for 38 years. They have four married sons and eleven fabulous grandchildren. Becky has co-authored nine books for Heartsong Presents. A recent release, Stillwater Promise, is about reconciliation in marriage. Becky is currently working on a contemporary fiction series with a historical thread. To find out more about Becky or her books, visit her at beckymelby.blogspot.com/ or www.melby-wienke.com.
This entry was posted on July 30, 2010 at 9:14 AM and is filed under Authors, Till death do we part. Tagged: Becky Melby, childhood sweetheart, expectations, intimacy, marriage. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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